Fiorentina travel down to Naples on a Tuesday for yet another Coppa Italia clash against Napoli, against whom they lost the final in 2014 against a riotous and violent backdrop in Rome; that was the closest the Viola have gotten to lifting a trophy in a long time, so those holdovers from that magical Vincenzo Montella squad may hold a grudge.
The last meeting between these two was a thrilling and ultimately disappointing 3-3 draw ahead of the holidays. In their last 10 against Napoli, Fiorentina are a rather abysmal W1 D3 L6.
The match will be played on Tuesday, 24 January 2017, at 7:45 PM CET/2:45 PM EST, at the Stadio Paolo in Naples. The referee for this one is Daniele Doveri, who last officiated a Fiorentina match more than a year ago in the 2-0 loss at AC Milan, although they’re W9 D1 L2 in the 12 games he’s taken charge of.
After dismissing Spezia in the last round, the Partenopei are definitely looking at a much sterner test. In fact, Fiorentina are the only Serie A team they haven’t beaten in their last 5 league matches, although their 1-2 victory at Milan last week kept their goals-per-game average at an even 3 over those 5 matches.
Manager Maurizio Sarri (who’s been pervasively linked to a job in Florence) will have to do without long-term injured striker Arkadiusz Milik (knee), as well as several AFCON absentees in centerback Kalidou Koulibaly, leftback Faouzi Ghoulam, and attacker Omar El Kaddouri. He’ll be bolstered by the arrival of former Genoa hitman Leonardo Pavoletti, who may well get his debut appearance for his new club in the cup competition.
By now, we’re all familiar with Sarri’s tactics. He favors a very positive 4-3-3 with clever passers and dribblers all over the pitch. There’s plenty of pace in the team, too, particularly up front, and Sarri will instruct his charges to press high up, particularly considering how well that worked for them last time against the Viola. The backline can be a bit shaky, especially without Koulibaly, but the Partenopei are heavily favored by pretty much everyone.
2017 is shaping up to be a much better year for Paulo Sousa and company. Back-to-back wins over Juventus and at Chievo Verona have seen them climb to 8th in the Serie A table with a game in hand, and the team suddenly looks awake and re-energized for the first time in months.
Sousa will have to do without captain and starting defender Gonzalo Rodriguez (hamstring), as well as goalkeeper Bartlomiej Dragowski (knee). This could be a good opportunity to try out recently-arrived goalie Marco Sportiello, though, which could significantly impact the future of the position at the club. Striker Nikola Kalinic will also return from his yellow-card suspension and will probably return to the starting lineup.
While Sousa could replicate the 4-2-3-1 that should have beaten his opponents before Christmas, the 3-4-2-1 has been paying massive dividends since the Gigliati resumed using it and may fit better here. Fiorentina will probably start off frantically, hoping for an early goal, and then settle back and play on the break until part-way through the second half, as is Sousa’s usual modus operandi.
How to watch
TV: RAI, of course, has this one, but it’s a bit dicier otherwise. Check GolTV, or Sky Sports 1 if you’re in the UK. Otherwise, cozy up to those computers.
Online: Here is a list of free, reliable, and legal streams.
Ted’s Memorial Blind Guess Department
Maybe this is crazy talk, but I actually like Fiorentina to steal a win in this one. I’ll say it’ll go 1-2 to the visitors, with strikes from Federico Bernardeschi and Kalinic overcoming a Hamsik golazo. Really looking forward to regretting this optimism.